Aussies reconsidering ski holidays as cost of living bites

by Lauren Pattemore - Jun 10, 2024

The lack of snow has put a question mark over the upcoming opening date for local mountains in Queenstown and Wānaka, and ski operators say it's too soon to reveal when they'll open.  

And, so far, there’re fewer Aussies planning on making a winter trip to the Southern Lakes.

When approached for comment the RealNZ team - in charge of Cardrona and Treble Cone - says they'll have more answers later in the week after a few days of cold weather, snowmaking and possible snowfall. 

These two mountains were originally meant to open this Saturday, June 15.

NZSki, which operates The Remarkables and Coronet Peak, teased a photo about the limited snowfall on social media last week, showing their 2024 mountain crew up the hill with no snow in sight. 

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson says, while there's "very little snow up there", they’ve just started making snow for both the mountains today.

He says these low snow-making temperatures are expected to last a few days, plus there's some snow predicted for the end of the week.

Mr Anderson has “been through it a few times” before with snow not arriving until the 11th hour, and he says the biggest thing is to “be optimistic”.

Their plan is to still open this weekend, otherwise, if they have to delay, it won’t be too long after that.

The forecast provided by MetService meteorologist Mmathapelo Makgabutlane backs up Mr Anderson's optimism - she says cooler temperatures are coming this week for both Wānaka and Queenstown.

Ms Makgabutlane says that the areas can expect the weather to get on the “chilly side”, with neither likely to reach double digits for the rest of the week. 

She says there’s some sub-zero temperatures expected overnight as well, and it’ll be a lot cooler at the top of the mountains.

Ms Makgabutlane is anticipating a “fresh dusting over those peaks”, and another potential round of snow on Thursday.

This year, June has “started on a warmer note” with temperatures of 17 and 15 degrees Celsius recorded, whereas sub-10 maximums are generally the norm, she says.

She says weather systems have been bringing air masses from the north of New Zealand, and that means warmer temperatures.

As for what's expected later in June, Ms Makgabutlane says it’s “difficult” to predict, however, at the moment, it looks to be staying on the cooler side. 

Meanwhile, there’s questions being asked about the number of Australian visitors coming over the ditch for a ski holiday this year.

An article on Australian news website suggests that less Aussies are going on ski holidays due to the cost of living crisis

The discount retailer Aldi had its annual ski season sale, which usually sells out immediately, but this year saw lots of stock left untouched.

Air New Zealand short-haul manager Jeremy O’Brien says at this stage Australia to Queenstown demand is “slightly lighter” compared to winter 2023, but they’re still anticipating more Aussies to book flights. 

Mr O’Brien is expecting to see an increase when the ski season peaks, and says travellers will be keeping a close eye on the snow to ensure they get the best possible conditions for their visit.

But things are more promising for the airline over the Victoria and New South Wales school holidays, with Mr O’Brien saying they’re “seeing strong demand for travel” over this period for their direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne.

“We look forward to welcoming even more of our Aussie customers onboard for travel to Queenstown this winter.” 

Accommodation manager Verrern Ruswandi at Swiss-Belresort Coronet Peak says group bookings are “about the same, but slightly less” compared with last year. 

“We used to have a big group from China every year, but they think New Zealand is very expensive, so they didn’t come this time.”

However, in other periods they are completely booked-out, with one big group coming in the first week of July, and no availability over mountain-festival Snow Machine in September. 

For the rest of the month and into July, they’re sitting at 65 percent occupancy, although Mr Ruswandi is anticipating more last-minute bookings. 

Main image (Facebook/The Remarkables): A photo of 2024's staff up the mountain, posted to social media last week, saying the snow is 'fashionably late'.

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